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Keuchel sees his turnaround as ‘a little bit too late’

/ by Maddie Lee
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USA Today

White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel tilted his head and put on a wry smile when asked about his personal postseason prospects.

“Oof,” he said with a chuckle after the White Sox’ 8-7 win at Detroit on Monday. “Well, I’d definitely like to be a little bit better than what I have been.”

Keuchel ended his season on a positive note, holding the Tigers to two runs through five innings for the second consecutive start. The White Sox still have five more games to play before the playoffs, but those starts are accounted for as the team begins to line up its rotation for the postseason.

Unlike last year, Keuchel is far from guaranteed a spot in that rotation. White Sox manager Tony La Russa didn’t completely rule it out, however.

“There are enough factors left that are going to impact who gets the ball, what's the roster look like, all that stuff,” La Russa said before Monday’s game. “For right now, if he gives a really good game today like the last time he faced them (the Tigers), that's important to note.”

Keuchel proceeded to put up similar numbers to his previous outing, this time showing an uptick in velocity. He allowed seven hits Monday, compared to the 11 he gave up last week.

“I felt like I had really, really good stuff today,” Keuchel said. “Outside of a few pitches early, getting myself into trouble in the second (inning) with a couple walks, I felt like that was right on par with who I am.

 

“Probably a little bit too late, with the four or five bad starts in a row. In this league, you don’t get a lot of second chances to rewind.”

Keuchel (9-9, 5.13 ERA), in a down year after posting a career-best 1.99 ERA last season, would seem to be completely out of the White Sox’ playoff plans if it weren’t for concerns about left-hander Carlos Rodón’s health.  

Rodón has been battling shoulder soreness and fatigue, even after a stint on the IL to rest his arm. He is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Reds despite a bullpen session Sunday that La Russa characterized as “just OK.” Rodón’s health is likely one of the “factors” La Russa mentioned in relation to Keuchel.

Keuchel has also steadily turned around his performance since a low point at the end of August, when he gave up six runs (five earned) in one-plus innings against the Cubs. It was the shortest start of the 2015 Cy Young winner’s career.

Keuchel said that early in the season he’d embraced the extra horizontal movement he was seeing from his two-seam fastball, but he reassessed when it was clear the change was leading to command issues.

“It’s worked for me trying to get back on top of the ball, where I’m coming through and the fastball starts in the zone and stays in the zone but it has some late, sharp movement,” Keuchel said. “And everything has kind of trickled off that. So, had I known that about five, six starts ago, I think I’d be in a really good position. But sometimes in the heat of the moment when you’re competing, it doesn’t always work that way.”

Instead, Keuchel will be the first to say he’s trailed behind the rest of the White Sox’ rotation members. Lance Lynn (10-6, 2.72 ERA) and Rodón (12-5, 2.47) were named All-Stars this year. Giolito (11-9, 3.58) has sustained his success from the past couple seasons. Dylan Cease (13-7, 3.95) has impressed the White Sox with his development.

“I’m extremely proud of what the starting staff has done,” Keuchel said of his teammates. “So, I’m going to be happy for anything that happens. I hope we win the World Series. And you never know – I’d like to be a part of it, but who knows.”

As someone who has been on five different playoff runs with three different teams, Keuchel understands the calculations clubs make as they set their postseason rosters.

 

“It’s going to be tough,” La Russa said. “He’s got a track record. He’s got experience, he’s got history. Obligation is to take your best shot at winning. Whoever gets the ball has earned it in the opinion of the decision makers.”

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